Anfotec Antriebstechnologie GmbH from Medebach in the Sauerland region is a provider of high-quality industrial and mechanical drive elements. The company was founded in 2000 and has grown steadily since that time, marked by rich development perspectives, an innovative corporate culture, and high quality demands. Anfotec has been working with ZOLLER for quite some time on tool presetting. However, the company’s growth resulted in new challenges: establishing transparent tool management and shortening machine setup times.
Non-transparent Tool Inventories
Before introducing a systematic tool management system, “every specialist did their own thing when it came to tools” says Christian Haut, Managing Director of Anfotec. “As our number of machines grew, this became inefficient and above all expensive, in particular for cost-intensive tools like cutter heads that are used in many different applications.” Therefore, the motivation for introducing a tool management system was to create transparency regarding inventories – specifically: “getting the tools away from the machines and clearing out all the individual specialists’ ‘stashes’,” states Michael Schnellen, Project Manager at Anfotec. The company did not know its exact tool inventory levels, often resulting in duplicated re-orders as it had difficulty maintaining an overview and had no efficient tool management system.
Cutting Capacity: The Eye of the Needle
The challenge was to establish a process that would shorten long setup times, and at the same time ensure that the right tool is available at the right time. “In particular for the big machines, that have a 6–7 hour run time and that use up to 60 tools for one workpiece, the setup times added up; above all when the specialists had to also spend time looking for the tools,” explains Planning Engineer Florian Niggemeier, discussing the initial situation.
The first step to shorten setup times, external tool presetting instead of “probing” in the machine, was implemented in 2010 with the ZOLLER »venturion« presetting and measuring machine. The second step was the addition of ZOLLER tool management software in 2013.
10 to 15 Percent More Cutting Performance
Today, the optimized tool organization reduces setup times significantly. This results in longer machine run times and significantly better cutting performance, as Managing Director Hast confirms. The company no longer deals with machine downtimes due to missing tools, since all orders are pre-set on a tool trolley. “Today the organization is tip top, and the success is there: We have between 10 and 15 percent more cutting performance,” says Hast.
Increased Efficiency Through Parallel Setup
“The specialist fits the tool changer, checks all the technologically relevant settings once more, and the machine runs,” explains Hast, adding: “Before, our specialists set up everything on the machine themselves. Especially for repeat parts, the ZOLLER system setup sheets are a big advantage.” Today, setup is completed in parallel.
Significant Reduction in Tool Costs
Tooling lives aren’t the only thing that’s gotten shorter. Tool costs have also been noticeably reduced by the complete changeover in tool purchasing policy. The company only needs to reorder what it has actually used. And thanks to a reduced number of suppliers, today the company can also obtain better purchase prices. “It really paid off,” summarizes Christian Hast, “the costs in purchasing were cut by almost half in the first year!” Today, a cost savings of 20-30% over the initial prices has resulted.
Tool Management “Staff Position”
To achieve this, we first set up a “staff position” for tool management with Mr. Siegfried Friedrichs at the start of the project. Tools were systematically recorded – both single components and complete tools – and a transparent process flow was established from tool creation to reordering. “Today, over 1,200 complete tools and more than 2,000 single components have already been created in the ZOLLER tool management system. Even the smallest screw of the single components has been recorded and saved in the system with a photo,” explains Florian Niggemeier. Tools are managed centrally; thanks to the ZOLLER warehouse management, they can also be found immediately in the storage cabinet. Tools are reordered using the “Ordering system” tool management module. They are only ordered when necessary, and only when they are actually needed. “Of course, when you’re introducing a tool management system you have to do some internal work winning over employees, getting rid of habits, and involving employees right from the start” says Niggemeier. Not all employees were excited at first – however, practical experience soon showed that the system simply pays off.
More Safety at the Machine
The switch to the ZOLLER TMS Tool Management Solutions has paid off especially in the area of prototype manufacturing. Valuable tools are produced here using expensive machines. Specialists benefit not only from fast setup times, but also from additional safety at the machine during unmanned cutting. Narrow tolerances are established for tool presetting; if these are not adhered to, the tool is not approved for the machine. “The user interface of the ZOLLER presetting and measuring machine is very easy to operate. Guidance through the measuring process is great; even a non-machinist can preset and measure a tool using the »venturion«” explains Managing Director Hast. Nothing goes wrong anymore; machine crashes caused by tools are a thing of the past.
Excellent Efficiency Achieved
“The success is there – but of course we can still expand on it. The interface to the CAM system ‘SolidCam,’ for example, still isn’t being used to its full extent. And we are also going to take a closer look at data transmission from the presetter to the machines, above all the new »zidCode« solution ZOLLER offers,” says Anfotec’s Managing Director of the company’s future outlook. They have already achieved their most important goal: faster retooling plus safety in relation to the tool. Today, Anfotec focuses on production, not setup.